Lake Oswego man's search for kinder nation leads to 900-mile trek
Rand Bishop had trouble sleeping after the 2016 presidential election.
The lifelong activist for peace, justice and equality found himself awake in the middle of the night, fretting over the divisive, toxic atmosphere pervading America.
"I could no longer sit idly by while the nation turned into something I no longer recognized," he said.
So he decided to go for a walk.
It wasn't just a walk: It was a life-changing journey.
Inspired by a woman called Peace Pilgrim, Bishop set out to walk from southern California to his home on the Central Oregon Coast — a distance of 900 miles. Friends and family questioned his sanity and worried about his safety. He was 67 years old, had a history of chronic foot and knee issues, had minimal camping experience and zero knowledge of long-distance hiking.
He said his intent was to find out if "there were still nice people out there in the world." His plan was to meet as many people as possible, listen to their concerns and engage with them in civic, constructive dialogue.
Bishop's trek began May 1, 2017, in Thousand Oaks, California, and ended 90 days later in Lincoln City.
"Ninety-five percent of the people I talked with were at least nice, most were kind and a good number of them were extremely generous," he said. "I can't tell you how many people pulled a U-turn and came back to see if I was OK."
Bishop took the back roads and planned to walk 10 miles each day, not accepting rides unless he was sick or the route was too dangerous. His dog accompanied him for the first 300 miles, but developed a bad limp, and Bishop sent him home.
He took a 40-inch-by-20-inch storage box filled with dog food, clothing and camping equipment, which his brother fit into a stripped down jogging stroller. He camped, spent some nights in motels and couch-surfed when possible.
Bishop said not all his experiences were pleasant.
"I was taunted now and then," he said. "People assumed I was homeless." He had drivers spit on him, and intimidate him with their cars by kicking up gravel or intentionally spewing exhaust in his path.
When Bishop completed his trek he sat down to compile a memoir based on his daily journal entries. The memoir titled "TREK: My Peace Pilgrimage in Search of a Kinder America," details the myriad physical challenges he encountered. He says the "true heart of the tale beats evocatively in the thousand fascinating human beings serendipity introduced to me over the course of that unforgettable spring and summer."
Bishop, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and author, has created a one-man show of stories and songs based on some of the journey's most meaningful encounters. He will present Trek: On Stage at 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego.
"My goal with Trek: On Stage is to give the audience a memorable, soul-stirring, emotionally dynamic experience, from laughter to tears," he said. Tickets for the show are $20 for adults, $15 for students and groups. They can be purchased online at Lakewood-center.org or by calling the box office at 503-635-3901.
Bishop also will conduct a songwriting workshop from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at Musician's Club of Oregon, 485 S. State St., Lake Oswego. For more information on the workshop, call David Kavanaugh at 503-305-6432.
About Rand Bishop
Rand Bishop graduated from Lake Oswego High School in 1967, undecided between two career paths. Should he be a stage actor or a rock star? During his years at LOHS when the aspiring actor wasn't in leading roles on the high school stage, he was gigging with his local rock band, Thundering Heard. A season of bit parts at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival between his freshman and sophomore college years cured Bishop of his theatrical ambitions, leaving him to pursue a music career.
That decision in 1969 launched a 45-year journeyman music industry career, during which he recorded for major and independent labels, toured and harmonized with legends and produced platinum albums.
Bishop says his greatest fulfillment is that more than 300 of his original compositions have been released on records, featured in film soundtracks and/or performed on theater stages. The list of industry icons and/or Hall of Famers who recorded Bishops songs include the The Beach Boys, Heart, Cheap Trick, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and the Indigo Girls. As a songwriter, Bishop has garnered Grammy nominations, multiple BMI Awards, Million-Play certification and a collection of platinum plaques.
Following decades of living and working primarily in Los Angeles and Nashville, Bishop returned to Oregon in 2012 to help his aging parents. Settling in Newport, he felt content to keep a low profile, relieved to be away from the stresses of maintaining a high profile in a show business capital.
"In Newport I could just be 'the old guy with the beagle,'" he said.
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